Last Sunday was the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, a day when nearly 3,000 persons lost their lives in senseless acts of terrorism.
The generation that remembers what they were doing when they heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor is leaving us. Those of us who remember where we were when we heard that President Kennedy had been shot are getting on in years. But most Americans easily recall what they were doing on that ordinary day when almost everything we took for granted was lost.
Yet Sept. 11 is more than the date of a horrific series of events, or a single day to remember. It is the landmark when almost everything we considered normal became past tense. And it’s the date when we ever so briefly put aside our political and philosophical differences and came together as a nation.
But as you read these words, that momentary solidarity and focus on security have come apart once again.
Unity was the operative word after Sept. 11, 2001. Political party, religion, personality, skin color – none of that mattered, as strangers become neighbors and offered help and comfort in the midst of the questions that no one can still answer – why, how come, how is this possible.
No firefighter or police officer asked whether the workers on the top floors of the Twin Towers were Republicans or Democrats. None of that mattered. Human beings rushed into the unknown to help out other human beings. They were doing their jobs. And they were emblematic of the humanity we all share – and the opposite of the lack of humanity exhibited by the terrorists.
Sadly, 15 years later, we are divided yet again, something made dramatically obvious in this current election season, with candidates’ content and clarity lost to emotion and divisiveness. “I’m right, you’re very wrong” is the message, and substance is ignored.
How did we lose the grand sense of unity that came out of the national response to the attacks? Politicians and wannabes have resumed business as usual, going after each other to see who comes out on top, rather than offering realistic solutions to the problems we face today.
We must return to the idea that unity is not a sign of weakness. Patriotism comes in many forms. We show our love for our country in myriad ways. We understood that after Sept. 11. We must remember that not just on Sept. 11, but every day.